Jesus appears as the Lamb of God

Sunday, January 15, 2023

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First Lesson: Isaiah 49:1-6 (NIV)

Second Lesson: Colossians 2:6-15 (NIV)
Gospel: John 1:29-41 (NIV)


  • CW 380:1-4,5 “Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun”
  • CW 375 “Arise and Shine in Splendor”
  • CW 929 “May the Peace of God”

Most of us know that the promise of a Savior is almost as old as the need for a Savior. All the way back in the Garden of Eden God had promised that a Messiah, an anointed servant of God, would come and save people from their sins. And over the centuries God revealed more and more about who that Messiah would be and what he would be like. In some Old Testament prophesies the Savior is pictured as a conquering king who would sit on the throne of King David and rule eternally. Maybe you remember last week’s description from Isaiah: a tender shepherd, not snuffing out a smoldering wick or even breaking a bruised reed. One of the most famous pictures of the Savior is Isaiah 53, the suffering servant who would be pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. All these word pictures and descriptions of who the Messiah would be, and you know one that isn’t applied to him? Lamb of God.

Not once in the Old Testament is the Messiah referred to as “Lamb of God.” The closest is Isaiah’s prophecy that the Messiah would be silent before his captors like a sheep before the shearers. So why does John the Baptist call out this name to Jesus, not once but twice? Because “Lamb of God” is a perfect description of what the Messiah came to do. As we stand with the Baptist’s disciples and see him point to Jesus as the Lamb of God today, we are reminded about Jesus and what he came to do. We also learn that those who see the Lamb of God can’t help but share the Lamb as well.

Our text takes us out to the Jordan river near Jerusalem to find John the Baptist preaching and baptizing in the wild. We kind of skipped over John the Baptist in Advent this year to focus on other things, but you might remember that he’s the forerunner of Jesus. The last and greatest prophet. His whole ministry was one of repentance, telling people to turn from their sins because the kingdom of God was near. Last week you might recall one of our hymns walking us through the history of John baptizing Jesus. At that baptism, we heard the Father’s words of approval on from heaven and the Spirit’s appearance as a dove. Here we learn that John saw it too. “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.”

Now, it’s some forty plus days later. Jesus had faced the devil’s temptations in the desert and overcome, and now he was back among the people. And when John sees Jesus walking along the shore he calls out, “’Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’” John’s whole ministry had been to prepare the people to see Jesus, and now he jumps at the opportunity.

And John’s words are full of truths about Jesus. Take the riddle for example: “The one who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.” This only makes sense when we remember who Jesus is. Born after John the Baptist, yes, but existing long before. It’s another subtle hint that Jesus is no mere man. In this Epiphany season, we see the veil of his divine essence pulled back just a bit to reveal the God he is.

In verse 35, the Baptist is mentioned as having two disciples. They are both going to become disciples of Jesus, and we’ll talk about that another week, but right now I want you to know their names. Andrew is named specifically in verse 40. The other is thought to be John, the very one who the Holy Spirit used to write this Gospel. John NEVER names himself in the whole book. John, who began this book writing, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning,” shows us in this first account of Jesus’ public ministry that same truth. He is God himself. Eternal. Almighty. God was walking among his people.

But God didn’t come to conquer us. Jesus came to be the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Now this title might not be part of the Old Testament, but the concept certainly is. Old Testament believers brought lambs week after week and year after year to be sacrificed for their sins. Every year a Passover lamb was slaughtered by each Jewish family to remember the time in Egypt when God spared every Israelite family that was passed over for death at the sight of the blood of the lamb. Year after year God reminded the people of the death that saved them. He showed them a pattern of how they could be spared. How a sacrifice could change everything. It was the point of the whole sacrificial system. God was showing them how sins can be removed. Not by their work but by God’s. Maybe the people didn’t completely get what John was saying, but when he called Jesus the Lamb of God, memories of all those sacrifices and all those sins must have come to mind.

I would hope that hearing Jesus called the Lamb of God would call his sacrifice to mind for us as well. It is not easy to think about the sins that stand against us and recognize their seriousness. It’s far more preferable to minimize sin, isn’t it? We explain it away as some kind of minor sickness or disease. Sure, we have sin but it’s not a huge problem. We sweep our sins under the rug, telling ourselves, “everybody else is doing it. It can’t be that bad.” Still other sins we excuse by saying, “I’m not hurting anyone. There are worse things.”

But Scripture tells us sin is death. Sin is hopelessness and despair. Sin is separation from every good thing we want, in our relationships our earthly life, our eternity. We were lost in sin. It’s not until we realize the depth of our “lostness” that we understand how much we need what this Lamb of God has done for us. Jesus was born so that he could die. The cross was not an accident or a defeat but the accomplishment of the plan God had set in motion from the very beginning. Jesus allowed the sins of the

world to be placed on him. He allowed himself to be driven out of the Father’s love for a time on the cross as he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But in sacrificing himself he saved us. Saved us so that all who believe in him will not perish, but will have everlasting life. We stand beside Andrew today, and John, and hear those same words with the same joy, “Look the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” These are not small words. They’re great big ones. Huge ones. The most important ones. This is what God to reveal to us about Jesus. His sacrifice to be our substitute, our Savior.

The second paragraph here is as important as the first. Those who see Jesus, share Jesus. We see it in John the Baptist himself. He points to the Lamb of God one day. Then he does it the next. He even directs those who were following him to follow Jesus instead. Sharing this Lamb of God and all he had done for the world of sinners was John’s only goal. Not his own prestige. Not his own following. Not his comfort or companionship. John was about just Jesus.

But it’s Andrew that I want you to really think about today. Verse 37, When the two disciples heard [John] say this, they followed Jesus…” (and then a bit later) “So they went and saw where he was staying and they spent the day with him.” Andrew and John saw Jesus. They heard about him. And they wanted more. They sat at his feet. They heard him preach. And the faith that was yet still a spark glowed brighter. Brothers and sisters, we need to spend time with Jesus. Not because we need to satisfy him but to give him the chance to satisfy us. To soothe our hurts with his healing words. To quiet our fears with his calming promises. To renew our hearts with his Gospel of certainty. So make that time. Make the time for worship, just like you did today. And make the time to talk about faith with your family. To read the word on your own. To put faith into action through service. Spend the day with Jesus while we still have days to spend. Do this, and you will be blessed. And more than just you.

Andrew shows us that this good news we have in seeing Jesus and being with Jesus natural moves s toward sharing Jesus as well. Now, we sometimes make evangelism, witnessing, sharing our faith (whatever you want to call it) more complicated and frightening than it is. We tell ourselves we need to study more, know more, plan what to say better. But I want you to see three things from Andrew’s work.

  1. He didn’t travel across the world. He went to his brother. To someone he already knew and already loved. And he could tell what Jesus meant so he just went and spoke. God’s mission field for you isn’t always way “out there.” It’s often right in your own home. At your own Thanksgiving dinner and office party. Share what you’ve seen with those you see every day.
  2. He didn’t have a fancy presentation or perfect plan. He just told Simon Peter essentially what Jesus told him. “Come and see.” You too, don’t have to have the best words or the greatest Bible knowledge. Just share what you’ve seen.

Show the hope that you have. Invite them to the Word, here at worship or just in

your own conversation. Sharing what you know is all God needs to save a soul. 3. Andrew didn’t wait. Verse 41 says, “The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother.” Fellow saints of God by grace, there has never been a bigger group of

people in the world that don’t know Jesus than there is today. And there have never been less days until Jesus’ return than today. Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity – take the opportunity you have right now. And just maybe God will prepare another heart for heaven through you. Just like he did through Andrew.

Pray with me, that we who have seen Jesus would marvel at his sacrifice for us, and that in our joy we would share Jesus as well. May God work in power and grace to reveal our selfless Savior to us and others. Amen.

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